Earning the view

Earning the patio view at the Sea to Sky Gondola by counting the trail markers. A great way to spend a sunny afternoon – this hike has grown on me in recent years, despite the terrible condition of the trail. I would love to see the Sea to Sky Gondola folks put some money and effort into upgrading the trail. The km markers are a welcome addition but that doesn’t stop inexperienced hikers from underestimating what’s involved.

Well I thought I was behind before, but now I am a whole season behind! After hiking this trail with friends the previous month in somewhat variable weather, it felt good to take advantage of a sunnier day for a return visit.

The patio at the lodge has a great view in several directions, including this view over towards the still-snowy Tantalus Range. I liked how the cable follows the same angle as the land, kind of hiding it. Then there’s the gondola car itself, whose occupants may be enjoying exactly the same view as the photographer, perhaps allowing the viewer to imagine riding the gondola themself, and taking in that scene.

The kilometre-markers are a relatively recent addition, and I think they’re invaluable for gauging progress. I’d also like to see them labelled with the elevation too so hikers can get a sense of how high they’re climbing. Marking the quarter- and half-way marks is simultaneously useful and demoralizing as it always feels that you’ve made more progress than that! The directional signage has also improved drastically since we first hiked this trail back in 2014. If only the trail itself had seen some maintenance during that time…

Howe Sound on a sunny day is irresistible, still looking blue at this time of year before the main snowmelt gets underway when the silt in the Squamish River turns the sound a milky green. I’ve always liked the wiggle in the road from this vantage point too.

Upper Shannon Falls may not be as impressive as the lower counterpart, but they’re still pretty impressive. The smooth rocks by the creek make for a good resting spot, though they must be treated with care as they can be slick.

The bluffs just beyond the half-way point are a great spot for lunch or at least a snack with views of the Chief to the north. Just watch out for the chipmunks and Steller’s and Canada jays as they are all too quick to scrounge for food. Alas too many people have fed them over the years, which has made them all far too bold for their own good.

Of course, on a clear day, the crowds flocked to the suspension bridge for photo-ops, so who could resist making a photo-op of those photo-ops? You have to admit, it’s quite the view…

Misty Mountain Monday

Misty mountain Monday – views of the Stawamus Chief, showers in the Squamish Valley, and a suggestion of snowy peaks hidden in the clouds across Howe Sound.

Sometimes you have to get out hiking whatever the weather, and on this day we had plenty of weather! Winter wasn’t done with us yet, and we ended the day walking in wet snow. Still, swirly clouds make for interesting views along the way.

The first photo is overlooking the gap between the first and second peaks of the Chief, where we can see the Squamish Valley beyond and the way up towards Whistler. I snapped it from the gondola on our descent, and I like how the view is sandwiched between the clouds.

The second photo shows a similar view, though just looking down into the valley: I like how the light was catching the two parallel roads pointing northwards up the valley, and how the view becomes obscured by the rain showers.

The third photo was taken from the patio at the upper gondola station and at first glance might not appear to be very striking. But I really like the subtlety of the snowy mountain barely visible through the clouds. I tried to make it noticeable but not too obvious in the processing and I’m not sure it entirely worked. However, I still like it because it reminds me of the day and how there wasn’t even this much of a view when we first reached the top!

Phone Friday VI

It’s Friday, and this week my phone Friday is also a floral Friday with a selection of blooms seen over the past week. We have Japanese dogwood, salal, cottonwood leaf and seed pods, thimbleberry, false Solomon’s seal, western starflower, and a lovely lemon-yellow coralroot.

I picked only 8 photos this week though I could have posted many more!

  1. I’ve been fascinated by the Japanese dogwood ever since I saw the flowers sticking up a few weeks ago (and were featured in last week’s Phone Friday). Just today I noticed that one bloom had turned white and had the same red tips as last week’s bunchberry, and I felt compelled to capture it! I’m enjoying seeing the different dogwoods bloom – the Pacific dogwood is mostly done (though we saw one in bloom near Squamish last weekend) while the bunchberry (dwarf dogwood) is reaching its peak.
  2. A few steps further down the block from the Japanese dogwood, I found a nice patch of salal flowers lit up by the late afternoon sun. I like the way the flowers line a stalk and how there’s a progression in opening along that line. That, and they look so cute and fuzzy!
  3. It’s cottonwood season, and their scent is filling the air. I really love the shape of the leaves, as well as the colour when they first emerge, being tinged a yellowy-green with hints of copper. In the autumn these leaves turn a lovely yellow, especially in the mountains near Whistler, illuminating the paths of rivers, creeks, and logging roads.
  4. Not only their scent but their downy cotton seeds are also filling the air, collecting in great drifts along the edges of paths. I’ve seen the seed pods after they’ve already opened, looking like furry sticks, but this is the first time I’ve seen the pods closed up. Thinking they’d be ready to pop and release their seeds, I gently squeezed a couple. But they didn’t yield at all, and I left them to it.
  5. Thimbleberry is in full bloom at the roadside right now, all the way up the Sea to Sky highway to Squamish and beyond. This patch was at the start of our hike to Crooked Falls (shown in Wednesday’s post) and is but a tiny fraction of the extent of flowering bushes right now. In a few weeks, they’ll start turning into lovely red berries: one of the tastiest berries I’ve ever eaten was a thimbleberry, but, alas, that may have been a one-off as I’ve never been able to find any since that tasted so good. Still, they’re nice flowers.
  6. A collection of miniature starbursts, false Solomon’s seal is a common woodland flower at this time of year. It’s not my favourite, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take its picture! It has an even starrier-looking cousin called star-flowered Solomon’s seal, though that’s not so common.
  7. Speaking of stars, the trail between Shannon Falls and the Sea-to-Sky gondola has some impressive patches of starflower in bloom right now. I couldn’t decide between a close-up or a wider view to show just how many flowers there were, but in the end I felt that the close-up shot would work better for Instagram. I really like these little flowers; they’re just so delicate and it’s hard to believe they can survive attached to such tiny, slender stems.
  8. I’ve saved my favourite for last. On our way up to Sea to Summit trail last weekend I was stopped in my tracks by a small patch of pure yellow coralroot. I’ve seen some flowers that are yellow and pink, but never one that was 100 per cent yellow. It’s always difficult to get coralroot in focus (as I mentioned last year) and I always take a number of photos in the hope that at least one is sharp. This is the best of the bunch from the weekend, but it’s still not as good as it could be and isn’t that sharp when viewed at 100%. However, it fits the criteria of “good enough for Instagram!” which is why it’s included. I would love to go back and photograph it again this weekend but I suspect we’ll be off somewhere different.

That’s all for this week but I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share again next Friday 🙂

Waterfall Season

Waterfall season is well and truly here! Hiked up the Sea to Summit trail on Saturday and to Crooked Falls the next day to enjoy the cool refreshing spray of these spectacular waterfalls. We could feel the thundering water with our feet… Crooked Falls has certainly become a very popular place!

We hadn’t planned on doing two waterfall hikes back-to-back, but as we headed up the beginning of the trail to both the Chief and Sea to Summit trail, we soon realized that the vast majority of people had the Chief as their destination. The decision to opt for the quieter Sea to Summit trail was a no-brainer, and it turned out to be an inspired choice. Not only was the trail peaceful and quiet, but the water in Shannon Creek was roaring over the many sets of falls, cascades, and rapids. Even before we reached the falls, we could sense the deep rumbling of the water, and felt invigorated by the cool oxygenated air. Coupled with the first signs of a multitude of forest flowers, it was the perfect hike for an overcast day, and made our summit beer all the more enjoyable despite the briefest of views of the Sky Pilot peaks.

Sunday’s plan was always Crooked Falls though we almost changed our minds. In the end we were very glad we stuck with our original idea and enjoyed another lovely forest walk, again dotted with a variety of flowers and dominated by a thundering, soaking waterfall in full flow. The biggest surprise was the number of people: it seems that the Instagram effect has reached Sigurd Creek, and I was even moved to ask a few groups how they’d found out about the hike. Remarkably, only one mentioned Instagram.

Anyway, onto the photos.

  1. The first is a general view of what we believe to be Upper Shannon Falls. It’s hard to say exactly which one is the upper falls as there are several along a short stretch of the creek. At first I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a clear shot, but the green of the forest is so beautiful and the zig-zag of the creek still clearly visible that I actually ended up really liking this photo. As usual, the full effect is lacking on account of the square crop but the essence is there.
  2. These falls might be the true upper falls, and are the ones most easily visible from the trail, being blessed with two good vantage points. I took so long taking photos and video that a queue of photographers had formed behind me (of course I couldn’t hear anything as the water was too loud). Apparently one even made a joke about pushing me in to get me out of the way…
  3. Shannon Falls looking as magnificent as ever. While I’ve seen greater flow, I must admit this was still impressive today and I had to take advantage of the lack of crowds to get a clear photo of the falls.
  4. A face-on view of Crooked Falls, I endured a complete drenching to get this photo. Thank goodness for quick-dry clothing! It was definitely a good test of the water-resistance of my Pixel 2, as well as a good test of the non-water-resistance of our RX100II. Both survived, and I could barely see through my glasses by the time I was done. Needless to say, there weren’t many people lining up behind me to get such a clear view of the falls today…
  5. I believe Crooked Falls is named for the way it zigs and zags. Despite the intimidating view, it feels quite safe to get this view looking downstream over the cliff. On my previous visit, I had an ultrawide lens on our SLR and was able to capture this view and most of the falls in a single photo. On that particular day (back in 2014), I don’t think we saw more than half-a-dozen hikers in total.
  6. There’s a third vantage point of Crooked Falls, and I can’t decide whether it feels safe or not. Getting down into the “crook” (if you will) of the falls here requires descending a steep, slippery path, and I’m always aware that a mis-step could propel me over the edge into the waterfall. But many people make it here quite safely, and it is worth it for this unique angle. This photo shows off the capability of the Pixel 2 camera to simultaneously capture deep shadows and bright highlights: the sky is blue and the clouds have structure! I have to admit, I’m still enjoying using the camera on this phone.

Pinesap

It’s pinesap season! I love how these flowers emerge from the ground, uncurling and unfurling as they grow. Saw a few along the Sea to Summit trail at the weekend, and on Mt Gardner the previous weekend, and more on our hike to Mt Harvey a couple of weeks ago. Alice Lake is a great place to see them at this time of year.

Much like coralroot, I was intrigued by these colourful flowers that grew in the shade of the forest. I don’t remember exactly when I first saw one of these flowers, but I could immediately see it was unlike any other flower I’d ever seen. Varying from creamy-yellow to salmon-pink in colour, this tiny flower unfurls directly on the forest floor, starting out as a tiny coloured bump before growing up and straightening out to a full height of about 30 cm. Like coralroot, there’s not a hint of green anywhere. They sometimes grow alone, but more often in small groups, two or three, maybe half-a-dozen. Since then I’ve found a place where it grows in profusion, and the trail becomes one of the slowest half-miles I’ll ever walk 🙂

So keep your eyes open – they’re picky about where they grow, but when they find a place they like, they can spread out and colonize the area.

Suspension

Busy on the suspension bridge at the Sea to Sky gondola. Hiked the Sea to Summit trail yesterday in search of beer. We found some but there must be easier ways… 😁🍺

There are a couple of superb viewpoints along this trail but the best is undoubtedly from the patio at the gondola station. The clear view up the valley towards the Sky Pilot group is stunningly dramatic, and the suspension bridge in the foreground adds a bit of interest too, rather than just a valley full of green trees.

Best of all, you can sit and enjoy this view with a well-earned cold beer in hand!

Waterfall season

Shannon Falls from the side, this view is from the parking lot at the Sea to Sky gondola – waterfall season is fast approaching!

It’s been a pretty miserable winter here in Vancouver. Lots of rainy days, and sunshine has been hard to come by. But rain and snow make for good waterfalls, so there’s something to be said for enduring all the grey and damp. Shannon Falls near Squamish is usually a good bet for a good flowing waterfall, and this day was pretty good for early spring conditions. I’ve seen the falls flowing much more strongly than this, but today there was enough to get some good misty spray drifting from the upper cascades. We’d called in to the Sea to Sky gondola to buy annual passes (aka Christmas presents!) and caught this nice view of the falls as we walked from the car, a slightly different perspective than usual.